Choosing between heating or eating under ESA
People with Parkinson's and other conditions are struggling to support themselves on even the highest rates of disability benefits, according to new research released today.
60% of respondents to a survey by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) of over 80 charities, led by Parkinson's UK, said the amount they received under Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was not enough to live on.
ESA is designed to replace all of a person's income when they're too unwell to work. But at the highest rates it only offers a maximum of £109 per week.
Living on ESA has been made even more difficult since the Government introduced a cut of £30 per week to the lower rate of ESA for new claimants in April 2017. This means that people expected to return to work within a year receive only £73 per week.
Amanda, whose husband Kevin was moved to the lower rate of ESA explains: "It was a horrendous 4 years for us. We couldn't afford to pay bills or buy food, so we were forced to live off credit cards the whole time and we're still paying them off now.
"It got to the point that we were going to lose the roof over our heads as we couldn't pay the rent. Luckily our local councillor stepped in to help us at that point."
Worse still, the failure of the assessment to correctly identify whether someone is well enough to work means that around 40% of people with Parkinson's have either been told they can work, or that they can get better in a year.
Parkinson's UK Senior Policy and Campaigns Adviser Phil Reynolds said: "It's shocking that people with Parkinson's and other conditions face having to choose between putting food on the table and heating their homes under the Government's punitive rates of ESA.
"The new Work and Pensions Secretary needs to sort this mess out, by ensuring people receive enough money to support themselves and fixing the broken assessment process, so people can trust they'll get the right result first time."
Ask your MP to take action today
Show your support for our campaign to fix ESA - email your MP today and ask them to contact the new Work and Pensions Secretary to prioritise improving ESA.
Any questions about ESA?
Our helpline and Parkinson's local advisers are here to answer any questions you have about Parkinson's, including ESA.
Call us on 0808 800 0303.